After talking to Racecar Man on Saturday afternoon, I realized that the water pump is ready to die a horrible death. It started creaking and groaning a while back and may have been the source of the mystery noise back when I thought something was wrong with the drivetrain.
To get the water pump off, I had to pull the cooling fan and belt pulley off. To get the fan off, I had to remove the fan shroud. The alternator and it's mounting brackets had to come off so that the pump could be unbolted. Hopefully, all of this stuff will line up again in the near future.
I am always trying to learn something more about the truck, so after I got the water pump removed, I took it apart, to see how it works. It is really just an enclosed impeller that keeps the coolant moving through the block and back to the radiator. I think. It only took me 6 bolts to see that, so no real time or effort lost.
Since I was this far into the engine, I decided to pull the valve covers and clean them up and to get new gaskets installed to stop the slow oil leak coming from both sides. And on Racecar Man's advice, I researched how to tighten the valves, while the covers are off.
I needed to turn the engine by hand, so I pulled the spark plugs to make it a lot easier. The valve tightening was a pretty easy task, after all of that, thanks to a website I found. The site kind of dumbed down the process in my shop manuals, making it possible for me to follow.
Before I reinstall all of this stuff, I am cleaning up as much as I can. I scraped mud off of the frame that I had not been able to get to yet, and yesterday I blasted the fan shroud with the power washer and it cleaned up nicely. This afternoon I am going to run the spark plugs through the spark plug sand blaster. They are not oily, but they have a lot of carbon on them.
I am thinking about cleaning up and painting the fan, valve covers and pulley before I install them. If I do, I want to get them really clean first, so that they hopefully won't need another paint job in a year or two.